Music written about our beloved Bluegrass state are obviously near and dear to our hearts here at Capture Kentucky. So much so, that we decided to compile a list of our favorites. We hope you enjoy!
15. Bowling Green – The Everly Brothers
Kentucky is known for fast horses, great bourbon, rolling hills, bluegrass music and beautiful women. The Everly Brothers capture the essence of our beautiful women in their 1967 track, Bowling Green. Long considered by many to possess some of the greatest harmonies ever recorded, The Everly Brothers also have a Kentucky connection, as Don Everly was born in Brownie in Muhlenberg County.
14. Run For The Roses – Dan Fogelberg
You didn’t think we could have a list of songs about Kentucky and not include one written about the Kentucky Derby did you? Don’t be silly! This beautiful track builds it’s momentum slowly and paints a beautiful account of the life of our thoroughbreds. I may be biased, but “Run For The Roses” is by far, my favorite Dan Fogelberg song.
13. Coal Miner’s Daughter – Loretta Lynn
This song is much more about our beloved Loretta than it is our Commonwealth. Yet it still captures the essence of our people. Hard working people that put family first, second, middle and last. Growing up in Butcher Hollow (Or as us Kentuckians say, Holler) Loretta had a dream, a drive and an honesty about her that is still as compelling as ever. We’re proud of Loretta and it’s an honor to include her song on our list.
12. Mountain Parkway – Sundy Best
As a fellow Eastern Kentuckian that has traveled the Mountain Parkway my entire life, this track really resonates with me. As the lyrics roll by, just like the lines on the highway itself, I can envision each and every scene described by the Floyd County natives in Sundy Best. If music’s purpose is to take you on a journey, then this song is sheer brilliance.
11. Old King Coal – Sturgill Simpson
Jackson, KY doesn’t have many claims to fame, but Sturgill Simpson is doing his best to change all of that. Arguably one of the biggest country stars around, Sturgill crafted Old King Coal before his ascent to super-stardom. The song, as a fellow Eastern Kentuckian can attest, is as accurate of a snapshot of the area, the people, the struggle and the family traditions as you will ever find. It may not paint a beautiful picture, but its brutal honesty can not be denied.
10. It’s Got To Be Kentucky For Me – Tom T. Hall
Olive Hill, KY native Tom T. Hall sings many songs about Kentucky, but his track “It’s Got To Be Kentucky For Me”, is his best. Essentially, the song describes many places and the reasons he loves them, but just like myself, Kentucky and all its beauty has his heart.
9. Kentucky Skies – Leftover Salmon
If you don’t think Kentucky is beautiful, then let an outsider’s perspective sway you a bit. The lyrics in Colorado’s Leftover Salmon’s track Kentucky Skies tell you all you need to know about this one. “I’ve Been Around The World But I’ve Never Rest My Eyes On A Place As Sweet As Home Under Blue Kentucky Skies”.
8. Ghost of Floyd Collins – Black Stone Cherry
Floyd Collins was a cave explorer that had a lot to do with Mammoth Cave. He discovered Crystal Cave and ultimately met his death in Sand Cave. He was trapped 55 feet underground and died of starvation, dehydration, and hypothermia after 14 days in 1925. His body was also displayed in a glass top coffin inside Crystal Cave after the family sold their homestead. His body was also stolen from the casket in the cave and his injured leg went missing. Now, many say that Floyd Collins haunts Crystal Cave. I mean, who could blame him if he does?! It’s a wild story and one that Black Stone Cherry does a great job of telling.
7. Kentucky Rain – Elvis Presley
Eddie Rabbit and Dick Heard wrote this classic hit for the one and only, Elvis Presley, and it features Ronnie Milsap on piano. It’s Elvis. It’s Kentucky. That’s really all the reasoning you need for this one.
6. Dumas Walker – Kentucky Headhunters
Ahhhh, Dumas Walker! A song about a real restaurant in Greensburg, KY where ya can get yourself some slawburgers, fries and a bottle of Ski, shoot some marbles and just hang out. The Kentucky Headhunters wrote this catchy little diddy about A. Ennis Lunchroom. Lots of people call it the greasy spoon and the sign says KY. Headhunters, but whatever you call it, it inspired a song that helped these good ole Kentucky boys bring home a Grammy for their 1989 album, Picking On Nashville.
5. Kentucky Means Paradise – Merle Travis
Speaking of Muhlenberg County, Merle Travis was born in the tiny community of Rosewood. He is best known for his unique style of fingerpicking on the guitar. A style often times referred to as “Travis Picking”. Back in 1947, Merle released his “rag-time” inspired Kentucky Means Paradise. A song that aptly describes the beauty of Kentucky and delivers a laid-back atmosphere for sipping some good ole Kentucky Bourbon on a breezy summer evening. At least that’s what I’ve heard. *wink*nudge* You’ll also hear a familiar saying about our fried chicken in Kentucky, it’s “finger-licking good.”
4. You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive – Patty Loveless
This track was written by London, KY native Darrell Scott and it was used prominently in the hit FX series Justified. But for me, it’s another Kentucky natives version that gives this song the life it deserves. Elkhorn City’s Patty Loveless, one of the biggest female Country Superstars, delivers the emotion, harmonies and haunting spirit that make this song so memorable. It’s a reflection of just how deeply the coal industry runs within our Kentucky communities.
3. Paradise – John Prine
It would be blasphemous to not include the classic folk song Paradise by John Prine. His ode to the town of Paradise (Yes it actually existed) is a wonderful tribute to his childhood memories, that were, unfortunately, all but erased by “a progress of man.” Paradise was once located in, here we go again, Muhlenberg County, formerly known as Stom’s Landing. Which was a trading post along the Green River that was closed down and abandoned due to health concerns caused by the Paradise Fossil Plant, the largest coal-burning power plant in Kentucky.
2. Blue Moon of Kentucky – Bill Monroe
Rosine, Kentucky is the birthplace of the legendary Bill Monroe. Hence, it can also be called the birthplace of bluegrass music since Mr. Monroe was dubbed as the “Father of Bluegrass.” This classic track has been covered many, many times over the years and that’s simply a testimony of just how powerful the melodies and message truly are. Look no further than the Elvis Presley version to see, or I should say hear, just how unique this song truly is.
1. My Old Kentucky Home – Stephen Foster
Our state song, and for good reason. Written by Stephen Foster around 1852. My Old Kentucky Home is an anti-slavery statement that is beloved by all Kentuckians. It is performed every year at the Kentucky Derby by the University of Louisville Marching Band. For our money though, former Governor, United States Senator and Commissioner of Major League Baseball A.B. “Happy” Chandler’s version will always be pure perfection.